28 Jan 2023

What you need to know: Auckland flooding - where to get help, what to do

5:54 pm on 28 January 2023
Flooding on Candia Road in Henderson Valley, west Auckland on 27 January 2023.

Aucklanders have been inundated with floodwaters, and are being told to stay sheltered at home. Photo: Supplied

Auckland has experienced a staggering amount of rainfall with widespread flooding creating hazards for people and properties.

In places vehicles, houses and buildings have been flooded and people have been evacuated, at least two people have died and two more are missing. Many local roads and highways are unpassable or closed due to flooding and slips, and serious flooding has affected Auckland Airport.

Authorities are warning those in Auckland to stay at home if it is safe to do so, but to pack essentials and be prepared to evacuate if you are in an area threatened by flooding.

Bay of Plenty Police also warned motorists to stay off the roads unless travel was essential as the storm was causing slips and damaged there.

Below, we've gathered up everything you need to know about: calling for help, weather forecasts, essential services, where to find essential information, where to go if it is not safe at home, floodwaters and damage, roads and travel, events cancellations, beaches, other regions.

A state of emergency was called for the Auckland region at 9.30pm on Friday and will remain in place for seven days. Auckland's mayor Wayne Brown reiterated the call to "stay safe, stay home" and said the rain and flooding was not over.

National emergency response officials and senior politicians including the prime minister arrived in Auckland early on Sunday to assess the situation. Some army personnel have been deployed to assist.

Calling for help

If you are unsafe, call 111.

Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) have asked people not to call 111 unless there was a threat to people's safety.

Shortly before 1pm on Saturday, FENZ Counties Manukau district manager Brad Mosby reiterated that request. He asked people to "be patient, wait for floodwaters to subside" when crews would be more available.

Fire and Emergency received more than 2200 calls last night in Auckland. As well as fires, these included: 126 rescues of people trapped in cars and houses, or crashes; 84 jobs where there were threats to people; 237 jobs where there was a possible threat to people.

Mosby said anyone driving through floodwaters risked getting trapped and further draining emergency services resources.

"We had every available career and volunteer crew on the road responding to the most serious events," Mosby said.

Drones and Search and Rescue were being used to check flooded buildings where there were any concerns people could be in them.

Police said they were continuing to respond to a high number of calls on Saturday.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said due to the number of calls for help, emergency services were prioritising what they could respond to, but his message was to stay safe, minimise movement and look after others as much as possible.

Brown said those responding to requests for help were focused on welfare calls, and would address infrastructure problems as a second priority when that is possible. Resources from outside the region were being brought in to assist the local civil defence response.

To report flooding, damage to drains, or stormwater issues, Auckland Council wants people to report online here.

The Ministry of Social Development is also taking calls for welfare assistance on: 0800 400 100.

Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty said while the Civil Defence response is currently a local response, help was also being supplied from outside the region by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

"There are resources to assist. People should be not hesitating - if they need assistance, and letting NEMA [National Emergency Management Agency] know," McAnulty said.

Weather forecasts

More heavy rain is still expected for Auckland.

MetService said that while the red warning for Auckland had been lifted, it was expecting more heavy rain on Sunday. It put a heavy rain watch in place for Auckland and Great Barrier from 6am Sunday to the early hours of Monday.

A heavy rain warning was also in place for the Coromandel Peninsula from the early hours of Sunday till noon.

MetService's severe weather outlook can be found here, and their warnings and watches are listed here.

Essential services

Auckland's tap water is safe to drink, Auckland Council said.

But damage to a water pipe in a landslide meant people in Titirangi, Woodlands Park, Oratia, Green Bay, Waima and elevated sections of Scenic Drive could have no water or low water pressure for at least the next 48 hours. Water tankers were being sent to the area for residents to fill containers from, their locations are being posted here.

On the North Shore people were called on to reduce water use, keep showers short and not do laundry, to reduce the amount of wastewater, as wastewater was overflowing from a flooded pump station into a waterway.

In many places, flooding had spilled sewage and wastewater into the floodwaters, and people are urged to stay out of the water.

Watercare was prioritising overflows that were damaging property, and most of the clean-up would have to wait until the flooding subsided and overflows stopped, Auckland Council said. More Watercare information can be found here.

Vector reported widespread power outages, with 3500 properties still without power at 11am on Saturday. Check their outage map here.

The worst hit areas were in Auckland's north and west, where the sites were proving the most difficult to reach. In some areas, emergency services had requested power be shut off until flooding subsided.

Anyone with a power cut who needed electricity for medical equipment should call 111 if they were in immediate danger, but otherwise should let their power company know as soon as possible, Vector said.

They said if properties had water in their fuse box, or signs of arcing or overheating they should contact a registered electrician.

Those affected by flooding should turn off their electricity and gas, unplug electrical appliances and not turn electricity and gas back on until a registered electrician/gas specialist said it was safe to do so, Vector said.

People should stay clear of fallen power lines or damaged electrical equipment and treat them as live at all times, the power company said. Floodwaters were also an electrical risk, as it was not always clear what was under the water, so people should stay clear of the water.

Anyone whose gas meter had been affected by water or debris, should contact their gas supplier.

The power company would focus on restoring high voltage lines for the first 24 to 48 hours, followed by low voltage lines serving neighbourhoods and individual homes. A helicopter was being sent to survey the extent of damage on Kawau Island.

"Our crews continue to face challenges getting to outages to assess the damage, with two crews forced to abandon their cars overnight because of floodwater. Their safety and the safety of communities is of utmost importance at all times," Vector said.

NZ Post said deliveries had been temporarily suspended in Auckland on Saturday. There were also delays to deliveries for Northland, Wellsford, Warkworth, the Coromandel Peninsula and to some items travelling between the North and South Islands.

Where to find essential information

Auckland Emergency Management is providing regular updates on their website here.

Auckland Council is providing updates and information on their website here.

RNZ will keep updating news and information from authorities throughout the day on air and online, including in our live blog.

Where to go if it is not safe at home

Three Civil Defence Centres are open for anyone who needs a safe place to go to.

  • In Kelston at Saint Leonard's Road School, 15 Leonard's Road
  • In Randwick Park, at Manu Tukutuku, 32 Riverton Drive
  • In Albany, at the Massey University Albany East Precinct. Enter at Gate 1/Main Entrance off the Albany Expressway SH17. The centre is set up in the Sir Neil Waters Theatre

A helpline has been set up by Auckland Emergency Management for anyone who needs accommodation: 0800 22 22 00.

An earlier Civil Defence Centre that had been opened at the North Shore Events Centre was shifted to the Massey Campus (see details above).

Anyone headed to the Civil Defence Centres is asked to bring essential items like medication, warm clothes and baby items.

About 50 people spent the night at the Kelston emergency centre with people coming in throughout the night. An RNZ reporter there said many more people were arriving by early afternoon on Saturday. It was full of stretcher beds, showers were available, children were playing with toys, there were lots of volunteers and charities had provided food. The Fono medical centre was setting up a clinic there as a lot of people had to leave their medicine behind when they fled the floodwaters.

On Saturday McAnulty said there were dozens of people using the Civil Defence Centres and he expected that more would arrive. The minister of housing had told him "things are kicking into gear for those that need longer-term solutions".

He said anyone who did not have a safe place to go to, and who could not make it to one of the three centres should make sure Civil Defence was aware of their situation so they could get temporary accommodation sorted.

Red Cross asked people to stop bringing food and clothes directly to the evacuation centre at Kelston as they were full and needed space for the things belonging to the people staying there. They suggested calling the City Mission to see where help or goods were needed.

Flood waters and damage

Auckland Emergency Management Duty Controller Andrew Clark called on everyone to think of safety first.

"We understand Aucklanders will be anxious to return to their homes to survey the damage, but we urge them to do so with caution.

"Please do not drive through floodwaters and remember hazards and debris could lurk beneath the surface, and floodwaters may be contaminated.

"If your property has been damaged, please take pictures for your insurance company and contact them as soon as you can."

Tower Insurance chief claims officer Steve Wilson said extra resources had been brought in for its phone lines today and tomorrow, as they anticipate claims volumes will increase.

He said providing temporary accommodation was a key focus for Tower, with many establishments at or near capacity due to events that were scheduled before the arrival of wild weather.

Roads and travel

Authorities are calling on everyone to stay safe at home and not to travel if they are safe where they are.

For anyone who does need to use the roads, updates are being posted by Auckland Transport on their Twitter feed here, and Waka Kotahi on their website here and on their Twitter feed here.

As at 1pm Saturday, road closures and alerts on Waka Kotahi's website included:

  • SH1: The northbound onramp at Onewa Road was closed due to a slip
  • SH1: The South Eastern Highway off-ramp southbound was closed due to flooding
  • SH1: The Orewa to Warkworth section was closed due to flooding and large slips and is expected to remain closed for some time
  • SH16: The westbound off-ramp at Great North Road was closed due to a large slip
  • SH1: Drivers are warned of a hazard; the southbound lanes are blocked between Silverdale and Oteha Valley Road

Auckland Airport reopened its domestic terminal for arrivals and departures about midday on Saturday. But Airport chief executive Carrie Hurihanganui said the more significant flooding was still being assessed.

The international terminal was still closed and there would not be any international departures before 4pm Saturday and international arrivals until 4am Sunday.

Hurihanganui said travellers should stay updated as the situation was changing as more information was available. They should check updates with their airline or check their airline travel app for the latest information.

Venues and events cancellations and closures

Many events have been cancelled, among them, the Elton John concert in Auckland on Saturday, and Auckland's Laneway Festival that was planned for Monday.

Saturday's Fatboy Slim concert in Napier was also cancelled.

Auckland Museum was also closed.

Beaches are unsafe

All Auckland beaches are now rated high or very high risk for swimming as flood waters overwhelmed wastewater systems.

Auckland's SafeSwim website said every beach was now at red or black alert, the highest rating. At black level, residents are advised not to swim.

Other regions

Bad weather was also causing problems on the roads and prompting weather warnings in Northland, Waikato, the Coromandel Peninsula and in the Bay of Plenty.

Late on Saturday morning Bay of Plenty Police said the region was also experiencing widespread flooding and the situation was expected to worsen throughout the day. They called on motorists to stay off the roads unless travel was essential.

MetService issued a Heavy Rain Warning for the Coromandel Peninsula from the early hours of Sunday till noon.

A police spokesperson said heavy rain had caused multiple slips and brought down large trees.

State Highway 2 is closed at Maniatutu with diversions in place, while a landslide is partially blocking State Highway 29 at Omanawa.

For those travelling between Thames and Coromandel town, State Highway 25 was closed between Waiomu and Tapu and between Manaia and Te Rerenga because of slips.

Several major roads in the area had already closed, leaving travel around the peninsula difficult without long detours.

On State Highway 25A the road was closed between Kopu and Hikuai, due to further damage at a large washout.

In Northland, State Highway 1 was closed between Brynderwyn and Waipu due to large slips. Waka Kotahi said it would be closed all of Saturday, and likely Sunday as well.

In Waikato, there was damage at Ātiamuri, north of Taupō, where there was a slip on State Highway 1. The road was open, but stop-go management and a speed reduction were in place, and Waka Kotahi warned drivers to " Please take extra care along this route".

On State Highway 3 north of Te Kuiti flooding was creating problems between Gadsby Road and Te Kumi Station Road, and Waka Kotahi said drivers should travel slowly and carefully there.

A MetService Heavy Rain Warning was issued for the Bay of Plenty and Gisborne north of Ruatoria, with 70 to 100mm expected between 9am Saturday and midnight, with the heaviest rain expected in the ranges.

A Heavy Rain Warning was in place for Wairarapa and Tararua, until 9pm Saturday, with the heaviest falls expected in the ranges.

In Wellington a Heavy Rain Watch was issued for the eastern hills of Wellington for 4pm Saturday until midnight, and a Strong Wind Watch until 10pm Saturday, for a wider area covering Horowhenua, Kāpiti, Wellington and the Marlborough Sounds, with winds possibly approaching severe gale strength at times.

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